Addicted To The Limelight

Justin Bieber made headlines again this weekend after photographs of him posing with an adult tiger on a leash hit the internet. Though the tiger photo caused the biggest stir, there were other exotic animals “rented” for the birthday bash hosted by Bieber’s father. Many people ostracized Bieber not only for supporting the exploitation of captive exotic animals, but also for supporting the Bowmanville zoo, from whence the animals for the party were rented.

Here’s the thing, though. Bieber doesn’t care if people are angry with him, what he cares about is that people are talking about him.

Getting attention from the public is not just something celebrities monopolize, either. It has also become the sole endeavor of those who exploit captive exotic animals on social media. This is one reason that people or groups who post to multiple sites, multiple times a day, end up with tens of thousands, or millions of followers who fawn over them and support everything they do without question. This addiction to the limelight has nothing whatsoever to do with conservation, it has to do with being the center of attention.

Anyone who keeps abreast of the use of social media sites by pseudo-sanctuaries is aware that Black Jaguar White Tiger has cornered the market on both “cute” videos, and “defensive attack” videos. Founder Eduardo Serio’s obsession with posting videos and pictures which promote his own interactions with his animals, and his own “amazingness” as well has his petty and often shamefully immature threats to “destroy” or otherwise discredit anyone who speaks out against him has been documented ad nauseam. When Serio isn’t talking about how awesome he is, he’s badmouthing anyone who dares suggest that he, nor his “work” is quite as awesome as he thinks.

But Serio isn’t the only pseudo–not GFAS accredited–sanctuary owner who uses social media to further their own interests, he’s just arguably the most obnoxious.

The Bowmanville Zoo, where Bieber’s father rented the exotic animals for his birthday party this weekend has an Instagram account, which like many other pseudo-sanctuaries, hosts an array of photos most of which involve humans holding or interacting with captive exotic animals. Now, as far as “successful” social media accounts go, Bowmanville’s is lacking, possibly due to the recent animal cruelty charges levied against its owner. Chances are, the Bowmanville Zoo won’t be making any kind of comeback on social media anytime soon. That does not, however, negate the fact that they unabashedly exploited their animals in order to gain attention while their accounts were active.

Another zoo that is still very active in the use of social media for the exploitation of captive exotic animals, is Tiger Safari: Oklahoma’s Interactive Zoological Park. Read: Big Petting Zoo. Tiger Safari seems to favor Facebook, over Instagram, for its animal exploitation needs. Both accounts have been untended recently, but their Facebook page, in particular, is chock full of photos of guests holding baby big cats, riding tortoises, and cradling kangaroos. The only focus, is the interaction between the public and the animals.

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Unlike Tiger Safari, the Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center (you might remember them from this article) is right on top of updating their Facebook page with, you guessed it, people holding and interacting with captive exotic animals!

12928264_1164303726923203_517251072802390674_nYou might also remember that two Carpathian lynxes were listed for sale by the one of the three entities that share a location with ZWCC.

Despite that they’ve supposedly stopped allowing the public to directly interact with certain animals, the ZWCC obviously has no problem with directly handling animals themselves, or with posting videos of such interactions on social media.

Safari’s Sanctuary Zoo also has a Facebook page filled with questionable human/animal interactions, most of which are available to the public, for  a fee. Animals are carted around to various locations and subsequently used as props for photographs and to gain public support for a pseudo-sanctuary which has, like all the others, a slew of violations, accusation and fines in its background.

All four of these “zoological parks” share the fact that they claim to be dedicated to conservation, while they focus on allowing direct interactions between visitors and captive exotic animals. In all four cases, if you removed the direct interaction factor, you would have little if any remaining platform. The zoos simply don’t function as anything except as a vector for human/animal interactions. Well, aside from the continued breeding of captive exotic animals, and the sale of them, and any other possible form of exploitation.

Basically, they exist through the means of exploitation, not for the purpose of conservation.

While Facebook serves as the social media platform for some, there is no social media site that lends itself to captive exotic animal exploitation quite like Instagram. Allowing users to upload both videos and photographs, while collecting followers, and comments, Instagram is nearly limitless in its uses for putting oneself “out there”. The most exploitive accounts run the gamut from those hosted by pseudo-sanctuaries, to private citizens. But they all share a common thread: using captive exotic animals to get attention.

T.I.G.E.R.S. has some 42,000 followers (paltry in comparison to BJWT’s 5 million mindless worshipers) but T.I.G.E.R.S. is steadily gaining a wider, and wider base. With an endless supply of “cutesy” videos like wolf puppies playing with big cat cubs, and mountain lion cubs playing with baby chimpanzees, Doc Antle continues to tap into his formula of “unlikely animal friends” while ignorant followers oooh and awww over the uploads. Then there is the ever popular “babe with a wild cat” angle, something else for which Antle is well known. Just like other pseudo-sanctuaries, these videos are carefully hash-tagged with things like #savejaguars #notpets and #wildlivesmatter. Never mind that the cats in the videos and photos have often been bred just to be exploited, they’re being treated exactly like pets, and they have no impact whatsoever on wild animals of the same species, nor does the pseudo-sanctuary posting the photo or video have any actual impact on the plight of wild animals of the highlight species. Other than possibly damaging them.

Above and beyond the use of Instagram by pseudo-sanctuaries in their constant hunt for limelight, it has become a go-to outlet for captive exotic animal breeders and sellers. Accounts like Luxurypetss NjExoticpets and Fabelpetgallery actually use Instagram to sell live animals, with seemingly little regard for state regulations. In the case of Luxurypetss, captive bred big cats feature prominently, including servals, caracals, savannahs, and bengals. Unsurprisingly, a huge percent of comments go something like “I want one!!!” without any sense that the person commenting has a grasp of either how difficult it is to care for such cat, or how the continued breeding of captive big cats can adversely affect wild populations. Or, in the case of breeds like savannahs, which are created by crossing wild and domestic breeds, how inherited defects and diseases can shorten lifespans, and complicate the lives of the cats.

This detached sort of emulation is one reason that the ICARUS team is steadfast in our hands-off conservation policies. Even those who do not allow public interaction with the animals in their care, but do use social media to show themselves interacting with their animals attract not public interest in wild conservation, but rather, interest specifically in also being allowed to interact with captive wild animals. Photos like this one put the focus on interacting with captive exotic animals, not protecting wild animals. And tragically, the comments reveal the actual impact they have on the impressionable public. Instead of asking how to protect existing wild lions, the commenters say things like: “best work experience ever” “I want one too” “dream job””they say thank you!” (in regard to the lion “hugging” the man in the photograph) “I want to be you””Goals” and so on and so forth. All comments associated with the intention and goal of also hugging a lion. It’s a situation of monkey see, monkey do. And of hero-worship.

In preparation for this article, I sat down and sorted through the comments of Instagram photos and videos depicting direct interaction between the posters and their animals on accounts maintained by T.I.G.E.R.S., Kevin Richardson, and BJWT. Aside from the various hashtags like #savelions #savejaguars #savetigers, on the photos I examined (and at the time I examined them, because comments continually evolve) precisely 0% of the comments pertained to conservation in any format. Roughly 45%-67% of the comments were nothing but flattering compliments to the owners of the account. Anywhere from 12% up to 25% of the comments conveyed a desire to do exactly what was portrayed in the photo or video.

Clearly, seeing “experts” directly interact with captive exotic animals in no way encourages the public to avoid interacting with captive exotic animals themselves. It only increases interest in it. To make matters worse, there are virtual Instagram “celebrities” who don’t even pretend to have interest in conservation. People like humaidalbuqaish and swakll use Instagram as a way to showcase their own private zoos of captive exotic animals. And aside from the occasional naysayer (who often receives brutal abuse for questioning what’s going on) by and large, the responses to photos and videos of privately owned captive exotic animals are more along the lines of “can I visit your house?” “living the dream” “can I visit and play with your lions?” and “OMG I WANT ONE TOO”.

And so the cycle of limelight addiction continues. Pseudo-conservationists (whose “sanctuaries are not GFAS accredited) continue to post photos and videos of themselves playing with their animals, right alongside private owners posting videos and photos of themselves playing with their animals, and somehow the public is supposed to get the message that owning and playing with captive exotic animals is actually a bad idea. Which, of course, doesn’t happen.

What does happen, is a lot of limelight shined on those posting the photos and videos.

Which is exactly what they wanted all along.

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Accountability Is Our Responsibility

The law is supposed to matter. It’s supposed to represent guidelines. That’s the entire purpose behind why laws were ever created in the first place. Laws are supposed to mean something. Far too often, however, laws are negated, emasculated, by loopholes, privilege, or the almighty dollar. Everyone, everywhere, has experienced the sensation of powerlessness and abandonment created when someone who has broken laws, hurt others, and sometimes literally gotten away with murder, walks off into the sunset without so much as a slap on the wrist, often with ill-gotten gains lining their pockets.

We all know what it feels like to watch injustice unfold.

So, Why do we let it happen?

I don’t mean why do we “let” the court system fail us. We can’t control the courts (not even from a position in the jury) so it’s literally impossible for us to stop injustice insomuch as it’s permitted by the courts in their lackluster support of existing laws.

We can, however, hold those who commit injustices accountable in the courts of public opinion.

It is our job to never forget what the courts failed to acknowledge. And it is our job to do whatever is required to make known the atrocities, abuses, and horrors that have been committed and subsequently ignored by our government, or any other government.

Yesterday, it was announced that Theo Bronhurst, the hunter and tracker who led dentist Walter Palmer on the infamous hunt which resulted in the illegal death of Cecil the Lion, was acquitted of smuggling 29 sables without paperwork. This after Bronhurst was caught redhanded with the 29 un-papered sables. His trial was repeatedly postponed, and he attempted to bribe a dismissal of the charges entirely. After all that, when he did go to trial, the judge acquitted him of all wrongdoing.

Bronhurst’s acquittal is only the most recent, and most public of case dismissals, or instances wherein grievous offenses of animal abuse are completely disregarded by courts, even when there are laws which could be enforced. In the matter of domestic animals, a Texas veterinarian, Kristen Lindsey is currently fighting to keep her license after shooting a neighbor’s pet cat in the head with a bow and arrow. Arguing–despite evidence of the contrary–that the cat was “feral” Lindsey says that she did nothing wrong. And the American court system agreed by proxy when the District Attorney chose not to indict Lindsey on charges of animal cruelty. Now, cat lovers everywhere wait to see if the Texas Board of Veterinary Medicine will agree that shooting a domestic cat in the head with an arrow is acceptable behavior for a licensed small animal vet.

In the world of captive exotic animal abuse, the list of those guilty of abuse, and those who still own and exploit captive exotic animals, are largely one and the same. Wherever you find a history of animal abuse accusations, fines, court cases, and acquittals, you will invariably also find someone who operates under more than one name or titles, who has owned or operated more than one business or “sanctuary”, who still maintains a pseudo-sanctuary, someone who still allows direct interactions between captive exotic animals, and someone who is still exploiting captive exotic animals in exchange for money. These abusers undoubtedly also still claim to be acting in the name of conservation.

But their own irrefutable histories reveal the truth.

I am going to list just a few of these repeat offenders, many of whom are still lauded by the public as excellent sources for “learning about exotic animals”.*

Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado

Has operated under the names:

Joe Exotic
Joseph Maldonado
Aarron Alex
Cody Ryan.

Has run businesses including but not limited to:

5 Continent Productions
Garold Wayne Interactive Zoo
G.W. Exotic Animal Park
G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Foundation
G.W. Exotic Memorial Animal Park
Alex Productions
Awakening Productions
Awakening Rescue
Big Cat Rescue Entertainment Group
Corley’s Exotics
Mystical Magic of the Endangered
Tigers in Need
Welch’s Entertainment Group
Welch’s Tiger Experience
Welch’s Great Cat Adventure
World Magic

Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado owns 1500 exotic animals, including more than 150 tigers on just 16 acres of land. Current USDA regulations allow an adult tiger to be kept in a cage smaller than an average parking spot. Think about that. A 700 tiger contained–permanently for its lifetime–in an area the size of your car. A large portion of Joe’s income is derived from constant breeding of cubs, which are used in cub-petting scenarios, hauled across the country to shopping malls and other venues. When the cubs are too old to be handled, they’re “donated” or sold or retired to his own breeding group, where they’re used to perpetuate the abusive situation. Over the last decade, Joe Exotic has been cited repeatedly by the USDA, and is currently under investigation by the USDA in relation to the deaths of 23 individual cubs between April 2009 and May 2010. PETA has also investigated Joe.
Mahamayavia Bhagavan Antle

Has operated under the names:

Keven Antle
Dr. Bhagavan Antle
Doc Antle

Has run businesses including but not limited to:

Buckingham Zoological Park (VA)
T.I.G.E.R.S. Wildlife Park (Sevier TN)
T.I.G.E.R.S. (with two separate “public education” exhibits in Myrtle Beach SC)
R.S.F. (Rare Species Fund, Myrtle Beach SC)
Wild Encounters (Miami Beach FL)
Jungle Island (kept tigers at this institute)
“The Tale Of The Tiger” (yearly production, Boston MA)

“Doc” Antle has been breeding, exploiting and abusing captive exotic animals since the 1980s. He first opened, and then inexplicably abandoned a “zoological park” in Virginia. Officials found animals trapped in enclosures and left to fend for themselves. Just a year or two later, Antle made headlines when he allowed a model in NH to pose with one of his lions at a local fair. The lion subsequently bit the model on the head and face. Antle fled the state, taking the lion with him, while the model was in the hospital, leaving her to receive 70 stitches and rabies vaccines. Antle’s taste for mixing sexy models with captive big cats has persisted, however, and to this day T.I.G.E.R.S. features scantily clad women feeding adult tiger, lions, and ligers from baby bottles. Cub are continually bred in a production-line format, taken from their mothers immediately, and transferred to one of his two Myrtle beach sites. They are then used exclusively for “educating the public” which in Antle’s case, means being used as photography props. The cubs are also taken on the road to a variety of fairs and exhibits where they hare handled by hundreds of paying customers a day. All in the name of “education”. In addition, Antle breeds unnatural crosses between lions and tigers, and uses these “ligers” to draw in crowds, misleading the public to think that these crossbred animals are “rare” species. He touts his Rare Species Fund as a fund where the public can donate money which is then used to support wild conservation. However, the IRS has no record of such a nonprofit, nor is there any such entity under Antle’s name registered in the state of SC. Antle also claims to work closely with the Feline Conservation Federation. However, this is simply a private group which advocates for private ownership of exotic animals, and has nothing to do with actual conservation.
Bill Meadows

As operated under the names:

Bill Meadows

Has operated businesses named:

Tuttle’s Interactive Exotic Zoological Park, Tiger Safari

Just like the others, Bill Meadows has a laundry list of USDA violations against him and his park. At least one undercover investigation has shown proof of animal starvation and abuse, and multiple animals have died under Meadows’ ownership. He has received a multitude of warnings, each resulting in just enough compliance that farther charges are dropped. In at least once case, when Meadows was unable to properly house an animal, Joe Exotic traveled from his own zoo to take custody of the animal while Meadows fixed the enclosure. At that time, Joe Exotic himself was under investigation by the USDA for violations of his own.
Joe Exotic continues to operate his various enterprises, continues to breed animals, and continues to exploit animals. How can this be, you might ask? Because the law cannot be counted on to stand up for the rights of captive exotic animals, and in the absence of the law, the public continues to pay for the privilege of holding and petting baby big cats. The public continues to paint Joe as someone living the American dream and they continue to pay to visit the establishments owned by Joe, and the movie industry continues to pay him for use of his animals.

“Doc” Antle has a 20+ history of violations with both the USDA and numerous state agencies, including injuries to humans, escaped animals, and premature deaths of animals. Yet he’s worked on movies like Ace Ventura, The Jungle Book, and Mighty Joe Young. Hollywood, apparently, does not care how many animal abuse charges, or violations you’re associated with. And everyone who paid to see those movies (and any others Antle worked on) supported Antle’s abuse, and continued celebrity status. Even Rolling Stone overlooked the rampant abuse in favor of writing a fluff piece that not only cheered on Antle’s deplorable actions in building a fortune off animal exploitation, but teasingly stated that his enemies “hate him for it”.

Despite graphic photographs of animals in the last stages of starvation, as well as documented cases wherein veterinarians were bribed, or else wise involved with covering up abuse for Bill Meadows’ park, Meadows continues to operate. Not only that, but he continues to receive good publicity via news stations and travel ratings.

Now is the time to stand up for the exploited, to speak out against the injustice being suffered by these animals. One of the most important things to do which will help the animals being exploited in America, is to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

All of those listed in this particular article have faced law enforcement, and the judicial system, and in every case, every one of them has escaped without tangible, and lasting changes. Until American laws are changed for the better, it’s up so us, the public, to charge these abusers with accountability. We must step in to protect animals by not supporting the institutions which abuse them. Boycott the circus, that’s great, but don’t then turn around and go visit an “exotic animal encounters” park where captive exotic animals are kept, bred and exploited.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act can’t do anything to protect animals outside the USA, however.

This is the major problem with Eduardo Serio and his Black Jaguar White Tiger, which is based in Mexico. As I’ve said before, Serio is not famous for saving big cats, Serio is famous for being the man who plays with big cats. And for, if the “donation” to BJWT is large enough, being the man who can “hook you up” with the chance to visit BJWT and “play with his angels”. Right now, BJWT is running, and repeatedly advertising the chance to win a trip for two to their secret location so you can meet the cats. Serio is a man who blatantly and extravagantly exploits the big cats in his care right in front of millions of people, and no one seems to grasp what he’s doing. They don’t even seem to notice when he lies about genuine sanctuaries in an attempt to divert attention from the fact that his own pseudo-sanctuary doesn’t actually rescue animals. Nor do they grasp the fact that Serio cannot make BJWT a sanctuary simply by calling it one. And even if they fall under the term “sanctuary” as defined by Mexican law (I’ve seen no proof of this) BJWT is not GFAS accredited. Period.

Let’s be realistic. A civilian who privately owned a big cat, shared their bed with the big cat, and allowed it to live in their house, allowed their guests to play with the big cat in exchange for money would not ever be seen as a “rescuer of exotic animals”. They would be seen as someone incorrectly housing a big cat, and exploiting it. This is exactly what Serio does every day on his Instagram account. And yet, he’s touted by more than 5 million followers as being a “savior” to the cats he continues to exploit.

In Mexico, there is little to no oversight in matters of captive exotic animals. Serio regularly buys cubs from breeders to “save” them, and “receives” cubs from people he claims no longer wants them. Legally, there is nothing that can be done at this time, about Serio or BJWT. As long as he meets the requirements to own big cats under Mexican law there is not authority which can question what Serio’s doing. But that does not mean we should not try to have an impact on him.

Check out this petition in regard to a horribly damaged and neglected tiger cub, named Achilles, which Serio has possessed for more than a month now, without allowing the cub to be properly monitored by a big cat specialist. This situation goes beyond posting adorable videos of lion cubs snuggling in his bed. Serio is now putting up videos of an actively suffering creature, while claiming that he–and his followers–can heal it simply through the power of love and positive thinking. Meanwhile, Achilles continues to suffer the agony of multiple fractures.

As long as the public clicks on Serio’s videos, and shares them thousands of times, Serio will continue to make those videos. As long as the public continues to perceive sleeping with baby tigers, holding them, taking photos with them, and mishandling them in general as something “adorable” something to aspire to do, Serio will keep bringing in celebrities to pay to play with the animals, and post videos for fans to fawn all over. It is our job to hold Serio accountable for his atrocious behavior and exploitation. The petition to save Achilles might well be the first step in demanding that accountability. So please, sign it and share.

Law enforcement can only do so much. It’s the public who has the power to condemn the actions of people who cannot be reached by the Law.

Author: Artemis Grey

*I have drawn the statistics used for this article from various websites. Because the people listed here actively attempt to evade disclosing facts about their animals and businesses, it’s possible that the number of animals in their possession is either higher, or lower.

It’s All In How You Put On The Show

A month ago, I wrote an article for ICARUS about Eduardo Serio and his newest “rescue” a horribly damaged tiger cub he named Achilles. I have since gone back and added numerous addendums to the article linking to videos as posted by Serio. In my original article I stated that no rational vet would have suggested pursuing treatment in a cub that had 10 fractures throughout all four limbs, as well as other fractures, calcium deficiencies and spinal problems.

Let me be clear, at no point in my first article did I say that the cub should be euthanized because it would not live. The reason I said that euthanasia was the more responsible choice (and that is presuming that the cub actually had all of the injuries and issues Serio claimed that it had) is because should it survive, it would suffer from constant pain, would not live a natural lifespan, and would never have what the ICARUS team considered to be a “quality of life”. Just as the ICARUS team believes in hands off conservation, we also believe that the quality of a rescued animal’s life is of utmost importance.

There are times where an elderly long-suffering animal is rescued, and GFAS accredited sanctuaries have the chance to provide for that animal and give it a comfortable existence until the end of its life-which often comes much sooner than the animal deserved. However, in cases where a young animal is facing a lifetime of suffering, along with insurmountable defects or conditions caused by malnourishment, or injuries, we believe that it is the job of the rescuer to make the decision which will bring the most peace and comfort to that animal, not the decision which will drum up the most publicity. Yes, there are horrible cases in which an animal might make a full recovery. There are also cases in which the animal will never have a normal life, or even a comfortable one, and in those cases it is self-serving for a rescuer to keep that animal alive simply so they can say that they rescued it.

In the case of Achilles, Eduardo Serio has intentionally used the sleight of hand he’s known for with his “miracle” recoveries, acting not in the best interest of the animal, but in whatever manner will make him look like a savior able to heal anything “through love and positive thoughts”.

When Serio first posted photos of Achilles 5 weeks ago “just after his arrival” Achilles appeared to be about 2 months old. In the most recent videos wherein Serio and his followers are proclaiming Achilles’ “miracle recovery” and ability to “walk” the tiger cub looks–at least in body–to be approximately 6 months old. Achilles’ head, however, seems abnormally large for his body. This could mean that he’s actually even older than 6 months, and that his body is so shriveled due to lack of nutrition early on that it’s permanently stunted.

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We can’t know for sure, and details like that are brushed aside by Serio as inconsequential, and anyone who tries to find them out is labeled as a “hater” and blocked from his accounts. But nonetheless, something does not fit with Serio’s timeline of Achilles arriving, and only 5 weeks later appearing 4 months larger and older. Again, we can’t know the cub’s true age, because it’s something Serio doesn’t consistently admit to. It is just one more coin under the cups he constantly shuffles, revealing only what he wants the public to know. Serio’s lack of accountability is something well documented, and pointed out by others, like Jacalyn Beales.

By and large, the fact that Achilles can perform a sort of shuffle-limp-walk for several yards before collapsing has been lauded as a “miracle” by Serio’s followers, and accepted as proof that Serio can cure the ravaged with only the power of his love. The fact is, animals are indomitable in their drive to find some way of functioning, no matter how much pain it takes to do so. I have personally witnessed, during my years in the field, animals–both wild and domestic–walking on stumps of bone, functioning while missing entire portions of their skulls, with multiple broken bones, and with entire lower jaws blown off by shotgun blasts. These animals lived, sometimes, for years, with these catastrophic injuries, and without the aid of human intervention. The mere fact that Achilles is capable of attaining a walk-like gait for a few yards, or that he can slither-crawl onto a low mattress, does not indicate that he’s no longer in pain. Just as the fact that the cub has “been under the care of a veterinarian” does not indicate that he’s being treated by a vet who specializes in big cats, instead of one who specializes in, say, exotic birds.

While Serio’s followers are elated to see these videos, the ICARUS team aches inside, knowing all too well what sort of future problems Achilles is still facing. Problems he’ll have no choice but to suffer through as Serio continues to tout him as evidence of his own superiority. Unlike a proper tiger’s conformation–with prominent shoulders, vertical, straight, forelegs, a long flat back, powerful haunches, and well angled hind legs–

IMG_2103walking off the road

Achilles’ forelegs lack muscle development, his right foreleg sports visible deformities to the bones, and that foot turns under unnaturally, his back is prominently bowed in the center, and never flattens in a smooth line as it should, his hind legs show visible atrophy of the musculature and are extremely sickle-hocked, and he walks in a hunched manner, on his heels, rather than up on his toes as he should.

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This motion puts strain not only on all of his joints, but also on all of the connective tissues. The more Achilles moves in this fashion–and he likely can’t move any other way, due to his injuries and deficiencies–the more his muscles will develop incorrectly, and the more permanent these deformities will become. These are not things which can be corrected by love, no matter how much of it you give to him. He will continue to grow heavier–eventually reaching 500-700 pounds, and his own weight will continue to crush the deformed bones that are barely–infrequently–able to support the weight of a cub.

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In his first posts about Achilles, Serio mentioned multiple times that the cub had pins which had been incorrectly placed in his hind legs, pins which were causing some of his problems. He stated more than once that “in about 10 days” Achilles would go into surgery to remove the pins, as they were causing more harm than good. 5 weeks on, and no mention of any surgery has been made. We don’t know if the surgery has happened, if it’s not needed, if it’s still going to happen. All that Serio is talking about is how he “cried like a baby” when Achilles first did his walk-shuffle, and how his follows should continue to “think blue” and help heal the tiger cub. Again, the lack of transparency with Serio’s “rescues” and how they receive treatment raises more questions than it offers answers. To be honest, we don’t even know that Achilles actually had all of the fractures and problems that Serio said he had. It would not surprise me if some of the problems had been fabricated simply to make the “recovery” seem more miraculous. After all, the fact that Serio publicly lies, is something I’ve discussed before. The point is, scientific details aren’t something Serio cares about, and since BJWT isn’t accredited by GFAS, it’s not something they’re required to care about.

What Serio cares about is looking like a hero.

We will never know if Achilles has actually been at BJWT for months unable to walk, before Serio first posted videos of him, whether Serio waited to make sure the cub would live before revealing him to the public as if he’d just arrived, or whether Serio overplayed what was actually wrong with the cub, just so he could later defend himself against “haters” like us, and “prove” that his love could heal an animal not actually that badly injured. The unanswered questions about Achilles’ injuries and physical inconsistencies seen between the much younger looking animal in the first videos, and the much older looking one we see now, are just more shadows over the pseudo-sanctuary Serio takes such extreme pride in.

Achilles’ future looks no brighter. The best case scenario is that he’ll live for a while, dragging himself through Serio’s videos and acting as a poster child for a man who swears he can heal the sick and injured just by loving them (or perhaps “recover” completely because in truth his issues did not involve permanent bone damage) at the worst, he’ll disappear from BJWT’s social media accounts, just as numerous other cubs have.

The only sure thing about Achilles, is that we’ll never really know the truth about him.

We’ll only know what Serio wants us to think.

Artemis Grey

I decided to come back and put an addendum on this post, as Serio just put up a new video on Instagram wherein “The Starving Union” as he dubs them, “visits” Achilles while he’s eating. Our problem with Serio’s feeding situations aside, this offered a prime comparison between Achilles, who seems so much larger than his portrayed age would suggest, and two cubs who are approximately 5-6 months old, as per their appearance and introduction on Instagram by Serio. Shortly after Khloe Kardashian’s prominent visit to BJWT (wherein she learned all about the plight of wild lions and tigers, by bottle feeding and lying on the floor with newborn cubs) back in mid October of 2015, several new cubs appeared, and one was named after her. That would make the tiger cub in this photo, Khloe, between 5-6 months old. Yet she and the Sonny, the lion cub are dwarfed by Achilles, who is actually, according to the presentation on Instagram, supposedly younger than the other two. More questions without any answers. This is one of the ways in which cubs are shuffled and disappear, at BJWT, because ages are a never given, and thus cubs seem to come and go without being able to track their growth or lifespan. Again, something that’s enabled by the lack of GFAS accreditation.

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The Narcissism Of Animal Encounters

Several people, after reading my article on the epidemic of animal selfies, asserted that the “epidemic” wasn’t really an “epidemic” the way I portrayed it to be. So I thought I’d put together a little something in regard to the cub petting industry, which is based not simply on petting the animals, but also on the premise of taking photographs with those cubs (and which I cited in my selfie article)

Some places, like T.I.G.E.R.S., very carefully strategize and word their choices for photographs as by the group, meaning that each person in a group must pay to have a photograph, not of themselves with their cub, but of the entire group of paying customers with their cubs. Other places, often no more than private backyard zoos, give you the chance to hold and pose with cubs for just $20. Each place has its own guidelines and options and costs. I will post links to them so that you can see for yourself.

The only regulations in regard to cub petting in the US are provided by the USDA. They are meager, and read as follows:

Cubs cannot be handled before 8 weeks of age, because 8 weeks is the earliest point at which cubs can receive vaccinations. But the USDA defines a ‘juvenile big cat’ as being any cub over the age of 12 weeks and DOES NOT permit the public contact with cubs over the age of 12 weeks. Although the USDA laws should override any state laws, some states like Florida ignore the USDA regulations in favor of making their own. In Florida (where a number of cub petting operations exist) the public is permitted to handle cubs under the weight limit of 25lbs. This roughly translates to 12 weeks of age for the average big cat cub. However, Florida DOES NOT regulate the handling of cubs UNDER 25lbs, no matter how young they are.

So what does all of this mean?

Here is a list of establishments that came up when I plugged in the search perimeters of “where can I hold a baby tiger?” into Google. Many of these are IN THE UNITED STATES.

Black Jaguar White Tiger*
Dade City Wild Things
Chestatee Wildlife Preserve & Zoo
The Institute for Greatly Endangers and Rare Species
Zoological Wildlife Foundation
Brown’s Oakridge Zoo
Tim Stark Tiger Baby Playtime
Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park
Puerto Vallarta Zoo (this link goes to Trip Advisor, as their website is ‘under construction’)
Zootastic Park of Lake Norman
McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary
Maple Lane Wildlife Farm
Tuttle’s Interactive Exotic Tiger Safari Zoological Park
Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge
Big Cat Encounters-Karl Mitchell
Lion Park
Natural Bridge Zoo*
Virginia Safari Park*
Gulf Breeze Zoo*

*Black Jaguar White Tiger does not advertise public visitations/pay to play (I’m being completely fair to them by pointing this out) but their name did come up near the top of my feed, revealing that they do top the list of responses of “holding baby tigers”. *The last three parks on the list are all owned by Karl Mogenson/his family.

Now, according to the USDA, cubs can only be handled by the public for one month of their lives. Most of these sites do not list a specific ‘season’ for cub petting, it appears to be a service available year round. Presuming that the operators possess more than just one cub at a time, I went with estimating them to have 5 cubs. Some will have more available, some will have less.

But, supposing they all have 5 cubs available to the public, year round, and supposing that they all follow USDA guidelines (as many insist they do) each operator will go through about 60 cubs a year. There are 18 operators on the list who offer cub petting publicly. So every year approximately 1,080 cubs are bred and handled by the public through these establishments. Minimum. Supposedly ‘for conservation’. Then you look at a group like T.I.G.E.R.S. which has been in operation since 1983, and even if they had only five cubs available to the public at a time, T.I.G.E.R.S. alone has gone through 1,980 cubs since it was founded.

I say “gone through” because, well, where are these cubs now? That, is the million dollar question.

Because the cub petting industry is regulated by only a few flimsy sentences, which can be routinely ignored without any notable consequence, the operators who provide cub petting services are in no way required to document where those cubs come from, or where they go when their 4 week shelf life is up. Likewise, zoos are not obligated to make public where their surplus animals disappear to.

And this is just a small sampling of the available venues for direct interaction with big cat cubs. You could double or triple the numbers I’ve listed. We just don’t know, because no one is paying attention to how severe a problem this is. Not at the moment.

Serio isn’t entirely off the hook for this article’s purposes, either. In the cases of groups like Black Jaguar White Tiger, the fates of the cubs so adoringly ooed and ahhed over on social media sites becomes even more muddled. While BJWT is not “open” to the public, they maintain a continuous rotation of visiting celebrities who are all allowed to play with and take photos with their seemingly endless supply of cubs. And Every. Single. Photo. Or. Video. he posts of himself holding baby big cats, or a guest holding baby big cats has commenters who say ‘I want one!’ or ‘How can I do this???’ or ‘You’re so amazing, I want to do this!’

I spent several hours slowly plowing through BJWT’s Instagram feed–so popular with his nearly 5 million followers–making lists of cubs by name, by ‘pride’, and then by where they are now. Needless to say, I had a difficult time tracking down just how many cubs BJWT has had in its possession, and how many it still has in its possession as adults.

Serio himself claims to have personally bottle fed over 90 big cat cubs. I was able to come up with roughly 87 named cubs. Breaking that down over the three years that BJWT has been in existence (according to Serio) that’s roughly 7 new cubs appearing every four months. I say ‘roughly’ because Serio has a habit of changing cubs’ names, as well as nicknaming them with multiple nicknames. Thus, it took quite a bit of sorting to assure I wasn’t accidentally counting the same cats twice.

Of the 87 cubs I counted, 6 can be confirmed as deceased. The causes of death, however, are not nearly as easy to pin down.

Karma is well documented as having ingested a piece of wood (something that could happen accidentally, in extreme fairness)
Tatiana and Keiko both supposedly died of ‘collapsed lungs’ both incidents were attributed by Serio to ‘genetic defects’.
Onix/Onyx died–again, according to Serio–of a ‘brain aneurysm’ which he also blamed on inbreeding.
Labai died of what Serio described as ‘his intestines scratching his colon’ something Serio claims the cub suffered from with his prior owners due to improper feeding. Strangely, all of the pictures portraying Labai as a young cub were taken at BJWT and no mention of prior intestinal issues was ever made.
Tibet is dead. That is all, I could find nothing else about him.
Itzamna ‘didn’t make it’ which isn’t uncommon because ‘all ligers are born with genetic issues’.

Let me remind you that even though Serio has lost so many cubs to “genetic” problems, he doesn’t believe in neutering or spaying because he wants to use his ‘kids’ to repopulate the wild.

Of the remaining 81 cubs, 25 have “gone dark” and simply disappeared from social media. This doesn’t mean that anything has happened to them. I have no proof that anything happened, and I’m not asserting that something did happened.

I’m simply stating that we don’t know where these cubs are now, because there is no accountability in taking thousands of photos and videos of people holding your big cat cubs and posting them to social media. Especially when you aren’t a GFAS accredited sanctuary, and have no oversight. And before someone comments, I know that Serio claims to have rescued all of the cubs in his care, and that he insists he’s never bred them.

The fact is, he doesn’t have to breed his cubs, because he buys them from breeders all over Mexico, which does nothing but support breeding them for profit.

There are other issues with Serio’s accountability, but this article isn’t the place to go into them. I listed the cubs here because he uses them to further the cub petting industry. No matter what Serio says he’s doing, what his actions show him to be, is someone who enjoys coddling with captive big cats, and who will allow his chosen guests to do the same thing. Someone who relishes his own celebrity for the act of cuddling with captive big cats.

The point is, taking selfies, or regular photographs or videos, snaps, vines–taking any form of media with big cat cubs is a million dollar business. It is an epidemic, and it is continuing to spread like a plague.

And until the public stops oohing and ahhing and starts demanding accountability, nothing is ever going to change.

Feature Image Taken From Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand, one more place that capitalizes on photos with captive big cats.

Author: Artemis Grey

Dying For The Perfect Photo: The Selfies With Animals Epidemic

In recent years, selfies have become a global phenomenon. Worse, they’ve become a leading cause of accidental death for people all around the world. By some estimates (arguable, but still) the taking of selfies now causes more deaths per year than shark attacks. As disturbing as this is, it thus far has remained a sort of self-inflicted death sentence, an encapsulated phenomenon affecting only the humans taking the selfies.

That is changing.

Just in the last few weeks, a rare adolescent La Plata dolphin was killed when it became disoriented and beached itself. Instead of taking the animal back out into the surf and releasing it, hundreds of people began holding it aloft, and passing it around, all vying to take selfies with it. The dolphin quickly succumbed to shock and dehydration and died. After its death, the body was discarded on the beach, and–after a few more selfies with the corpse–it was left to rot. No charges have been filed in this case.

A man in Florida pulled a small bull shark out of the ocean, dragging it up onto the beach by its tail and then posing with it while onlookers eagerly snapped photos. Though the man eventually returned the shark to water, it reportedly sank out of sight without beginning to swim on its own, and it’s not known whether the shark managed to survive, or died of its injuries.

In China, visitors at a wildlife park–after being explicitly told to leave the birds within alone–not only grabbed several peacocks off the ground, but then pinned them against their chests while they took multiple selfies with the birds. Unlike humans, birds do not have a diaphragm, and they must rely on the expansion and compression of their chest cavities in order to move air in and out of their bodies. Pinioned tightly as they were, the peacocks were literally suffocated nearly to the point of death. What lack of oxygen began, shock finished, in the case of two birds. Both died shortly after the incident.

Now, a swan in Macedonia has become the latest victim of the ‘selfies with animals’ craze that’s sweeping the internet. Acclimated to the appearance of tourists, the swan did not shy away when a Bulgarian woman approached. Had the swan fled, it might still be alive. Instead, it allowed the woman to get close to it. She then grabbed the bird by one wing, and dragged it thrashing up onto the embankment. It’s likely that the swan’s wing was injured by the rough handling, but it was shock that killed it. Once the tourist got her selfie, she abandoned the bird on the beach where it quickly died.

These are isolated incidents which have made Internet news forums and have been highly publicized. Still consistently overlooked in the game of animal selfies, is the million dollar industry of cub petting, and cub selfies, which relies both on the continued breeding of captive big cats, and the public’s belief that it is their right to take selfies with these animals, and their right to exploit them “just this once” in order to create a memory for themselves.

This widespread entitlement that the public at large embraces, is something fueled, at least in part, to our consumption-based society. Terms like “white privilege” and “male privilege” are commonplace within today’s discussions, but I’m going to add a couple more to the roster. “Human Privilege” and “First World Privilege”.

“Human privilege” can be applied to situations like those above, where anyone, no matter their monetary status perceives themselves has having the right to impose upon the animals they encounter in order to satisfy their own interests. We don’t go around picking up other peoples’ babies or children and taking pictures of ourselves holding them simply because they’re cute, and we want a photograph with them. Likewise, we don’t walk up to strangers and hug them while taking photographs of the interaction. People who jump into the path of celebrities only to snap photographs are considered to be assholes, even during their few moments of fame. But humans think nothing of snatching animals up and forcing them to participate in interactions which are then documented in a photo or selfie, and subsequently splashed across the internet. Often, the more unlikely the animal companion, or the more dangerous the situation, the more popular the resulting selfie becomes.

“First world Privilege” is applicable to any situation in which someone is monetarily able to provide themselves with disposable goods, but for my purposes, I’m applying it specifically to those who pay to hold, pet, and take selfies with captive wild animals which have been bred specifically for that purpose. Pseudo sanctuaries (which are not GFAS accredited sanctuaries) like Black Jaguar White Tiger, T.I.G.E.R.S., Dade City Wild Things, Virginia’s beleaguered Natural Bridge Zoo, the Zoological Wildlife Conservation Center, and many other establishments, exist on the dollars pulled in by charging the public to hold and take selfies with their animals. The exploitation of their animals for use in public photos and selfies is not a footnote within the operations of the aforementioned pseudo sanctuaries, it is the very foundation on which the businesses were built, and on which they continue to stand. Egregious institutes such as the Tiger Temple, exist solely to cater to the “first world privilege” of those who pay to use their services while vacationing. If monetarily possessed people refused to pay to be allowed to hold and take photographs with captive wild animals, the consumption would end, and the practice would as well. After all, such fads as paying for seances has largely died out. Now, if someone pays for the services of a psychic, the mainstream public sees it as a waste of money. But once, it was considered to be *the* thing to do.

So what can you do to help end this “selfie with animals” epidemic? Well, for one, check out anti-animal selfie movements, like Big Cat Rescue’s Tiger Selfie and educate yourself. Then, stop sharing wild animal selfies and photos on Facebook, and other social media sites.

Black Jaguar White Tiger is the leading power behind the public’s obsession with sharing, and celebrating, photographs, videos and selfies of celebrity guests holding and coddling captive wild animals. Though closed to the public (you must be invited in, and/or donate $1,000 or more a month to be allowed onto te property) BJWT uses its 5 million+ followers on Instagram to promote activities like holding, playing with and keeping as pets, captive wild animals, big cats in particular. Eduard Serio defends himself, and his own actions insisting that his animals are not exploited and that he’s raising awareness about the plight of animals everywhere, and always hashtags the photos with #notpets despite that he’s blatantly treating the animals just like pets. The photos he promotes are those wherein he, or his many celebrity guests, are holding and playing with the animals kept on his property. These photos are subsequently liked, shared, and re-shared thousands and thousands of times. BJWT is beloved by millions, as I’ve said, and despite that the BJWT website recently, and without explanation, removed the ‘visit for two’ benefit to donating $1,000 or more a month (suspiciously after a number of articles publicly pointed out the fact that the chance to play with the animals was being used to garner donations) those millions of followers remain devoted to the pseudo sanctuary and its celebrity visitors.

Yes, the fans love BJWT. Problem is, only a few people ever get to go to the secretly guarded BJWT facility and “share Eddie’s special bond” with his pets–excuse me, “rescued” animals. So what’s an average Joe to do? Visit a more accessible “sanctuary” like T.I.G.E.R.S. or Natural Bridge Zoo(neither of which are GFAS accredited) where for what passes for today’s pocket change will get you some cuddle time with captive big cats who have been bred just so people like you can pay to get cuddle time with them!

Or, if you’re more into the offhand encounters, you can head out into the countryside and start randomly grabbing and manhandling whatever sort of animal you come across. It bears pointing out that not *every* selfie in which and animal has been forced to participate actually looks like the animal has been forced, or is suffering. Some animals aren’t capable of defending themselves against unwanted attention. Sloths, and even animals like the Northern opossums, or common turtles are more inclined to simply go limp or freeze when trapped by a human. You can literally walk through a South American jungle and pluck sloths from the trees (if you can reach them) and the sloths won’t do anything to you. But that doesn’t mean you have the right to touch a sloth.

So the next time an oh-so-cute photo of someone coddling or hamming with a wild animal pops up in your news feed, take a moment to look at it closely before simply liking and sharing it. All of those likes and shares promote the activities shown in the photographs and videos so it’s vital to understand what you’re promoting.

Does the picture portray a celebrity at a “sanctuary” that is not GFAS accredited, and allows direct interaction between the public and its animals? Does it have a caption that somehow links the activities of holding or playing with the animals to conservation or awareness? Are the animals in the photo wild, or not the sort of animals you would ever expect to see in human hands? If the answer to any of these is “Yes” then more than likely the animals in the photographs are being exploited.

Only in cases wherein medical attention, or nutrition is being administered by accredited professionals is it acceptable to hold or manipulate a wild, or captive wild animal.

As tempting as it might be to scoop up a baby animal (or adorable adult, or awesome looking animal) for “just one photo” you have to understand that your actions will have an impact on that animal, and that animals do not perceive such things the way a human might. For them, being held against their will is emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically, damaging.

And in some cases while people rationalize their actions by looking at it from the standpoint of “it’s just one photo” for the animals–depending on their situation–it might well be their hundredth, or thousandth photo. In cub petting situations, while you get a few minutes (maybe more, depending on what you pay) with a big cat cub, that cub often has to spend “a few minutes” with hundreds of guests each day. The same goes for animals such as the peacock killed by tourists in China, and the swan killed by tourists in Macedonia. Those animals had to deal with hundreds, or thousands of tourists passing through where they lived on a daily basis. And, chances are, they probably had to deal with people chasing, catching, or trying to catch them on a daily basis. We’ll never know if theses incidents were the first time the animals had been captured for photographs, or the hundredth time, because activities like this aren’t monitored, or noted.

In fact, the only attention and exposure this kind of abuse gets is after an animal is killed in the process.

So I implore you, don’t be part of the epidemic of animal selfies. Do your research and be part of the cure.

Author: Artemis Grey

The Price Of Conservation

It is with a heavy heart that the ICARUS team joins countless others in mourning the assassination of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres. A pioneer in matters of the environmental rights of Indigenous peoples, Berta co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) The group has dealt with threats and repression since its founding. Honduras is one of the most dangerous places in the world for environmental activists, second only to Brazil. Yet Berta, and others like her, refuse to back down in the face of continuous adversity.

Indigenous peoples all over the world face the same, including those here in America, where various Nations must regularly wage war in court to avoid having land taken from them only to be be awarded to conglomerate mining companies or other private, or government ventures which not only destroy the environment, but provide no income to the peoples they displace, and create critical health concerns secondary impacts for them.

Berta fought this fight not just in Honduras, but on a global scale, bringing together Indigenous peoples from all over the world in a united struggle against abuse, repression, and exploitation. Now Berta will be missed on a global scale. Last year, she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work. This year, she was murdered by those seeking to silence her powerful voice.

They will not succeed. Berta’s voice will live on inside anyone who ever heard her speak, anyone who read about her work, and anyone who has shared in her struggle.

Berta will never be silenced.

We will be her voice now.

You cannot murder us all.

The ICARUS team.

The Big Cat Facts About The Big Cat Public Safety Act

Recently there was great excitement within the conservation community in regard to the Big Cat Public Safety Act, as it was officially introduced into the Senate. There was also a less than enthusiastic reaction from the owners of pseudo sanctuaries who currently possess, and/or display big cats for profit, and/or allow the public to interact with big cats, or big cat cubs.

Then a news report aired wherein Lori Ensign-Scroggins of Safari Sanctuary was interviewed, and wherein she detailed some of the “problems” with the BCPSA. Lori alluded to the possibility that if the BCPSA was passed, big cats who were currently in the possession of private owners would be released into the wild where they would starve, and die, or that they would be confiscated from their current owners, and relegated to a life inside “cement horse stalls” and that “sanctuaries” like hers will go out of business, leaving other big cats in need of rescue to suffer and die.

Such speculations and assertions are designed to elicit responses from both animal welfare groups, who want to protect big cats from such fates, and at the same time, from the public, who will be equalled abhorred at the idea of animals being left to suffer, and terrified of finding a loose big cat in their backyard. And let me be clear that it was Lori Ensign-Scroggins, owner of Safari Sanctuary, not reporter Sharon Phillips, who made these assertions. Lori did so intentionally to try and raise opposition to the BCPSA, and make herself, and the big cats in her care, look like victims.

As the facts of the BCPSA are much, much different from the portrayal offered by Lori, I, along with others, promptly emailed Sharon Phillips, conveying our concerns about it and the inaccuracies with its portrayal of the BCPSA. In my own email, I pointed out the fact that Lori, herself, lost her USDA license back in 2012 due to repeated infractions and failures to comply with the USDA standards for a wildlife sanctuary. There has been at least one fatal mauling at Safari Sanctuary which can be attributed to failure to adhere to protocol.

I received a reply from Phillips in which she asked if I would be willing to speak with her on the matter. I told her I would be pleased to do so, but that she might prefer speaking with Jessica James, the founder of ICARUS, who was part of a team that worked on behalf of the BCPSA bill, and thus was more familiar with it. She said she hoped to make contact with Jessica, but we have not yet heard anything more from Ms. Phillips. Hopefully, we will hear from her, or she will make further contact with others who have participated in the making of the BCPSA, and who can subsequently provide her with correct information regarding it. As of right now, links to the article and video have been disabled with no explanation. We can only surmise that this was done in an attempt to gather more information and then alter the report accordingly.

There is, very unfortunately, a huge pressure on today’s reporters to produce not necessarily the ‘boring’ facts of a matter, but instead, the emotionally galvanizing, and tantalizing stories relating to it. The reporters have no control over the contrived falsehoods offered by their interviewees which are often designed to further the interests of specific parties beyond the control of the reporter doing the interview or spotlight. A little more digging before stories run, however, will usually shed light on the truth of those so eager to go on record condemning bills such as the BCPSA.

So, here are the big cat facts about the Big Cat Public Safety Act.

Under the Big Cat Public Safety Act:

No member of the prohibited wildlife species currently held in private captivity will ever be released into the wild. Nowhere within the BCPSA is there any stipulation or suggestion that any member of the prohibited wildlife species currently held by private owners should be released into the wild. To suggest such would be both unethical, and in direct conflict with the entire purpose of the BCPSA, which is to maintain the safety of both big cats, and the public.

Nowhere in the BCPSA does it state that big cats who are currently in the possession of private owners will be taken from those owners. Big cats born before the bill, and currently being privately held (with certain exceptions, based on situation) will be ‘grandfathered in’ and allowed to remain where they are. Their owners simply will not be allowed to obtain, through breeding or rescue, any new members of the prohibited wildlife species.

Under the general terms of the bill: It is unlawful for any person—
(A) to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase a live animal of any prohibited wildlife species–
(i) in interstate or foreign commerce; or
(ii) in a manner substantially affecting interstate or foreign commerce; or
(B) to breed or possess a live animal of any prohibited wildlife species.

This hardly needs translation, as it means exactly what it says. The general public will be prohibited from owning, or engaging in any of the aforementioned activities with any member of a prohibited wildlife species.

4) There are exceptions to these limitations.
Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person that–
(A) is an institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums;
(B) is a facility that–
(i) has an active written contract with an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan or Taxon Advisory Group for the breeding of prohibited wildlife species; and (ii) does not breed, acquire, or sell prohibited wildlife species other than the prohibited wildlife species covered by a contract described in clause (i);
(C) is a State college, university or agency, or State-licensed veterinarian;
(D) (i) is a wildlife sanctuary that cares for prohibited wildlife species;
(ii) is a corporation that–is exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and described in sections 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of such Code;does not commercially trade in prohibited wildlife species, including offspring, parts, and byproducts of prohibited wildlife species; does not breed the prohibited species; does not allow direct contact between the public and prohibited wildlife species; and does not allow the transportation and display of prohibited wildlife species offsite.
(E) has custody of the prohibited wildlife species solely for the purpose of expeditiously transporting the prohibited wildlife species to a person described in this paragraph with respect to the prohibited wildlife species.

This is a long one, but the meat of it is very simple. If your sanctuary is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the BCPSA won’t affect you. Similarly, if you have a contract with the AZA, so long as you do not exceed the boundaries of said contract you are in compliance. If you’re a university, agency or state-licensed vet, you are exempt. Most importantly, you  cannot breed, sell, trade, transport or allow the public to interact with your animals. To recap our recap, don’t exploit the prohibited wildlife species, and you’re in the clear. Easy peasy.

5) Five is really a continuation of four, but I wanted to break it up because four was already pretty long. So 5 or, in the bill as it’s properly listed, (F) is
(i) is in possession of a prohibited wildlife species that was born before the date of enactment of the Big Cat Public Safety Act of 2016
(ii) no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Big Cat Public Safety Act of 2016 is registered with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service;
(iii) does not breed, acquire, or sell prohibited wildlife species after the date of that Act; and
(iv) does not allow direct contact between the public and prohibited wildlife species;

Remember back up at 2) where I said that big cats who are currently in the possession of private owners would not be confiscated or–inconceivably–released into the wild? Well, above is the verbatim wording from the BCPSA itself. Anyone who is in possession of a member of the prohibited wildlife species that was born before the date of enactment of the BCPSA, and who registers with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and agrees not to breed, acquire, or sell those prohibited wildlife species after the enactment of the BCPSA will be allowed to keep their animals.

The stipulation of not breeding prohibited wildlife species after the enactment of the bill is vital to stopping the use of cubs for cub petting, which is one of the most prominent exploitations of big cats. Breeding cubs and allowing the public to handle them is never about conservation of a species, no matter what anyone says. It’s about making money by charging the public to handle the cats.

So, if the Big Cat Public Safety Act is passed, no captive animals will be released into the wild. No captive animals will be stolen away from their current owners and condemned to cement prisons. No big cats are going to be left to suffer or languish because there are no longer sanctuaries to rescue them. For as long as there are big cats who need to be rescued, there will be accredited and licensed sanctuaries to rescue them and subsequently house and care for them.

When viewed objectively, the Big Cat Public Safety Act seeks to end the continued breeding, selling, and exploitation of captive big cats, while curbing the illegal trade and trafficking of wild big cats, and eradicating the highly publicized and then instantly forgotten incidents of mauling and fatal interactions between captive big cats and those around them. All of these goals are rational, and reasonable goals.

The only people and industries that will be damaged by the enactment of the Big Cat Public Safety Act are those who subsist on monies derived from breeding, selling, trafficking, and exploiting the animals being protected by the Act.

I challenge anyone reading this article to research any person who has publicly spoken out against the Big Cat Public Safety Act. You will not do so and find a person who is not actively breeding, selling, or allowing the public to handle their big cats. You will not find anyone who has not either lost an USDA license or failed to ever obtain one, or who is already registered with the associations mentioned in this article. The only people who are fighting the BCPSA are the ones who are hurting the big cats now. Yes, there are private owners out there who love their big cats, but those owners are not going to lose their animals. They’re only going to lose the ability to breed or purchase more big cats. This is not a Federal “gun raid” wherein “big government” is treading on fundamental human rights.

This is about conservation, and protecting what wild animals we have left, while keeping them wild. It’s about protecting what captive big cats currently exist, and keeping them from being any more exploited than they already are. And it’s about protecting the public, who may not even know that their neighbor owns a big cat, until one day their child wonders next door and never comes home.

So please, do your research, decide for yourself whether or not the Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR 3546 / S 2541) is a good thing. And when you agree that it is, call your local Senator, and Representatives and ask them to support the bill. Every voice will matter, and every voice will make a difference. And remember, if someone is in opposition of the BCPSA, check and see if they’re a GFAS accredited sanctuary, or if they’re someone who actually uses their animals for making money through exploitation. If you need more information on how to contact your local Senator and Representative, check here.

Author: Artemis Grey

Special Snowflake Syndrome: The Truth Behind ‘Special Bonds’ And How Celebrity Conservationists Build Them On Assembly Lines

People love to witness–or even better, personally experience–a special bond with animals. It’s why we have them as pets, why we devote so much time, attention, and money to them. Spiritual bonds with animals are a very real thing, and they can enrich your life exponentially.

Not all bonds are equal, however.

The differences between how those bonds are created divides them profoundly between spiritual, and ritual. The words, spiritual, and ritual, might sound similar but their meanings are paradoxically opposite.

Spiritual is defined as relating to, or consisting of spirit, incorporeal. Of or relating to the spirit, or soul as distinguished from the physical nature. Closely akin in interests, attitude, outlook.

Ritual is defined as an established or prescribed procedure. A system, or observance of set forms. Any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.

Scenario #1

The foal of a reclaimed wild horse is intentionally taken from its mother. Trailered hundreds of miles away, the foal, which is not yet even weaned, is placed in a high-walled pen. It can neither see out, nor escape. The pen is dirt, with no grass or water. The foal is left alone, screaming for its mother, for any member of the herd from which it was taken. After a day or two, a man comes and opens the pen. He offers the foal a bottle, but it’s too afraid to come close. The man leaves. By now, the foal has no voice left to scream.

The next morning, the man comes back, and the foal is so hungry and weak that it accepts the bottle he offers it. The milk tastes good, and the foal feels better. When the man comes back, the foal goes to him readily. As the foal grows, and stops drinking milk, the man begins bringing it hay, and water. When the man is not there, the foal has nothing. When the man comes, the foal has food and water and companionship. Eventually, the man puts a halter on the foal, and the foal grows into a horse. To the horse, the man is the entire world. The horse will do anything for him because it has no memory of a time in which the man was not there, no memory of a world in which the man was not the center of its existence.

If asked to, the horse will lie down and allow the man to climb on top of it. The horse will rear, walk on its hind legs, kneel. It will even jump through fire, or allow things that terrify it to happen, simply because the man tells it to stand still and allow it to happen.

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Scenario #2

An adult wild horse is taken to live on a large ranch, turned loose in a large field, with plenty of grass and a creek running through it. Every day a man goes out and check on the horse, sometimes walking very far out into the field to find it. The horse always runs from him, and he never chases it. He walks the fence line, checking it for holes or debris. The horse often watches him, but never gets close. Sometimes he goes out into the field and sits in the grass eating his lunch. Occasionally the horse creeps closer. The man pretends not to notice, but he always leaves his apple core behind, and once he leaves the field, the horse ventures over, smelling the scent he leaves behind. It finds the apple cores, and eats them. Eventually, when the mans appears, the horse will come closer. If he puts an apple down, and backs away, the horse will approach and eat the apple. When the snow comes, the man returns every day and breaks the ice on the creek to make sure the horse can drink. He scrapes snow away from the grass, and leaves hay in its place. The horse watches from the shelter of the trees.

Eventually, the horse doesn’t look at the man with suspicion when he comes to its field. Sometimes it follows him as he checks the fence. Sometimes it doesn’t bother to stop grazing. It knows the man won’t do anything to hurt it, because he’s never done anything to hurt it. It understands that he lives here, and it lives here. He likes apples, and it likes apples. It has no herd, but the man is sort of like a small herd. He does things a herd would do. He keeps the horse company, and the horse keeps him company.

One day while the man is checking the fence line, he falls down. He can’t stand up. Coyotes hear him yelling for help. The horse hears him, too. It goes to see what’s happening, and finds the coyotes circling it’s man. It’s herd. Rushing in defensively, the horse fights the coyotes, off, kicking them, and driving them away until they leave entirely. But the man still can’t get up. It’s getting dark, and very cold. The horse stays by the man, making sure that the coyotes don’t come back. Eventually, the man stops trying to move. The horse lies down close to him, and when he rolls up against it, the horse doesn’t move. It lies beside the man for hours, and then as the sun rises, other people appear in the field. There are lots of them, and they’re all yelling. The horse leaps up and runs away, then circles back to watch as the people finds its man and takes him away. The next day, its man returns hobbling on sticks, and he brings lots of apples with him.

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Now, if I were to ask you which one of the men in these scenarios had a spiritual bond with the horse, I have little doubt that you would say the man in #2. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? He’s asked nothing of the horse, and yet when he needs help the most, the horse guards him, and then keeps him warm until he’s rescued.

The baldly honest truth, though, is that a person might foster hundreds of wild horses in exactly the same manner, and no one of them would ever see him as part of the herd, not one of them would protect him from coyotes or lie beside him and keep him warm.

I’ve worked with horses–both domestic, and reclaimed mustangs–for almost thirty years, and there has been only one horse who did literally save and protect me. That’s what makes the special bond special. The fact that it is so rare. Only one horse out of hundreds that I’ve ridden, trained, helped be born, or cared for actually did save me. And in that situation, there was also a newborn foal involved, and the mare saved the foal, too, so that might well have been a situation wherein I was saved by coincidence, not intention.

And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean the horses I’ve cared for and raised didn’t love me.

The sort of spiritual connection that would cause a horse to view you as if you were another horse, is simply exceedingly rare. The sort of ritualistic connection that allows horses to interact with humans with respect and appreciation can be created through consistent, daily routine. That routine might involve depriving the horse of basic needs, so that it has no choice but to accept a relationship, or it might involve the longer process of learning to trust each other. But in either case, the bond is real, it’s just not exceptionally unique.

So, how does all of this relate to conservation and wild animals? It relates vitally if you look at celebrity conservationists like Eduardo Serio and his Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation.

Serio has–as he so often boasts–has gathered almost five million followers on Instagram, and he didn’t do it by rescuing big cats. He did it by posting videos of himself playing with adolescent big cats, and other celebrities holding and coddling newborn big cat cubs.

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Some of Serio’s cats have supposedly come from circuses, but you never see him interacting with those cats because he can’t interact with them. He possesses no “special bond” with those cats because he has not hand-raised them from birth, has not systematically forced them to develop within the conformity of his own expectations. He does not have the bonds he has with his cats because he’s special, he has those bonds because he’s trained the cats to have them.

The dozens of newborn big cat cubs Serio constantly posts videos and photos of, are available to make those videos because they’re kept inside a house, locked in various rooms, and the only interactions they have with the outside world are interactions specifically relating to Serio or his staff. Those cubs–as Serio himself has admitted–are raised from shortly after birth, sometimes from before their eyes have even opened, living in Serio’s closet, sleeping in his bed, and being constantly handled by humans, indoctrinated into the ritual of human interaction. It is literally the only thing they know, the only thing they have ever been exposed to. When celebrity guests walk with the big cats in Serio’s possession, they are not being “brave” or “becoming part of the pride” they’re doing exactly what Serio and his staff have ritualistically done with the animals 24 hours a day, seven days a week since those animals were born. The animals don’t have a choice, they don’t even know they’re capable of refusing the contact.

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Serio vehemently denies “charging the public” to play with his animals. Instead, he offers them the chance to “sponsor” one of his ‘angels’ and with each level of sponsorship the donator receives certain benefits. Originally, and up until the recent spate of articles questioning the activities of Black Jaguar White Tiger, one of the benefits for those willing to donate $1,000.00 or more per month to his foundation, was a two day visit for two people to the Foundation–the location of which remains a closely guarded secret–and while there, handling and taking photos with the animals was part of the fun. Below is that donation page as seen in the ICARUS post titled Escaping the Matrix: Lifting the Veil on Black Jaguar White Tiger’s Pseudo Conservation of Big Cats.

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Now, here is a current screenshot of BJWT’s sponsorship page. The benefit of a two day visit for two people to the Foundation has been suspiciously removed. Is this a response to the recent publicity regarding Serio’s allowance of handling? There’s no way to know. And since Serio refuses to ever admit any wrong doing at all, we’ll likely never know why the terms for $1,000.00 sponsorship were suddenly changed. Just as we’ll never know why he’s suddenly referring to BJWT as a “sanctuary” instead of “the Foundation” when they still are not a GFAS accredited sanctuary.

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With, or without, the enticement to visit the Foundation in exchange for sponsorship, Serio continues to post videos and photos daily of both himself handling his cats, and of celebrity guests handling his cats. And regardless of any recent articles criticizing him, people seem to feel as if Serio is somehow ‘sharing his special bond’ with them by allowing them to participate. Serio’s 4 million+ followers on Instagram readily agree. Anyone who questions the validity of Serio’s ‘special bond’ with his ‘kids’ is cut down with verbal assaults and assertions, often which are nor more than the accusation that these ‘haters’ are simply “jealous” of Serio’s “special bond” because the aforementioned ‘haters’ will ‘never have that bond’.

What these followers fail to grasp is that anyone who purchases wild animals as babies, and keeps them isolated with only the owner to ritually care for them, will end up with baby big cats who excitedly run to them for comfort and affection.

These same blindly supportive fans also help to share numerous videos of interspecies “friendships” without grasping the fact that these “friendships” are nothing by contrived and forced pairings of animal interaction. Yes, it is possible for unexpected bonds to occur between species which otherwise might not interact, but rarely is a camera ever there to document the activity. Only a few times has such genuine and naturally occurring bonds happened, and often they last only a brief time. Videos of orangutans bottle feeding newborn big cat cubs are strictly the figment of one’s imagination. Namely the one creating and posting the video.

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‘Doc’ Antle of T.I.G.E.R.S. is no better than Serio. In fact, Antle is a main source for many of those “unlikely friends” videos so often shared by Serio’s fans.

Antle continuously breeds–and inbreeds–big cats, bottle feeding the subsequent cubs, and hybrid cubs, using food and intimidation to impress show routines onto his cats. By the time they reach adulthood, the big cats are so ritualistically bent to a specific behavior pattern that feeding them milk from a baby bottle is their standard reward for doing as instructed. The public finds this an adorable way of giving the animals a treat, and fail to recognize it as the lynchpin in a systematic conditioning of behavior.

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For Antle, the matter of cuddling his cubs is more a tourist draw, while the training of his animals takes center stage. The principal, however, is exactly the same. Antle prides himself on making the breeding and training of his cats an entire lifestyle. Prospective interns are expected to study Antle himself, and his methods, convert to veganism, they must be single, and change their entire mindset to match precisely how Antle says they should think. It is, much the same as Serio’s followers’ obsession with his “special bond”, simply a forced, and structured, ritualistic pattern of behavior, continually reinforced by how the animals are raised and maintained.

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Similarly, Karl Mitchell has been breeding big cats for decades, regularly charging the public for the privilege of holding the subsequent offspring. Mitchell started out by training a house cat to ride a motorcycle. This is something that thousands of cat owners have done, but in Mitchell’s case, he believed that his success was a sign of his own innate ability to communicate with animals. He became a self-styled “animal guru” claiming to be able to train animals that no one else could, such as zebras and antelope. Eventually Mitchell moved on to big cats, which he insists are trained using ‘love’ as well as other methods he learned from his apprenticeships with various Hollywood animal trainers.

karl mitchell abuserBecause, apparently, feeding animals on your couch is how all the big time trainers do it.

Mitchell’s property “The Ranch” has been the host to music videos, magazine shoots, and commercials. Mitchell maintains that he’s sought out by directors because of his ability to get animals to do what he wants, because of his guru-like skill with them. The truth is that Mitchell is a man constantly fighting allegations of animal abuse and mishandling, virtually all of them related to his big cats, and how they are treated.

He also uses The Ranch to allow high paying celebrities to play with his captive big cats.

Karl_ParisParis Hilton just can’t seem to keep her hands off big cats, be it here in America with Karl, or down in Mexico at Black Jaguar White Tiger.

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Bradley Cooper sporting a bad wig, and bad judgement as he coddles a 2 month old tiger cub belonging to Karl Mitchell.

 

Serio, Antle, and Mitchell all claim to have special bonds with their animals. They all claim to be special snowflakes, different from every other person who keeps big cats as pets and allows others to play with them.

*Serio loudly proclaims that most of his ‘angels’ have been saved from circuses or other situations, despite that a huge number of his animals are far too young to have even been in a circus or possessed as pets. He refuses to spay or neuter his animals, and talks about repopulating the wild with his cats. Calls his foundation a “sanctuary” though it isn’t GFAS accredited.

*Antle insists that his breeding, and inbreeding of hybrid big cats, is necessary to the preservation of the species, and says that one day, he plans to reintroduce his cats to the wild. Also calls his businesses “sanctuaries” though neither are GFAS accredited.

*Mitchell insists that his final goal in breeding and maintaining big cats is to return them to the wild, and that he’s currently in contact with sanctuaries in India in regard to reintroducing tigers there.

All three of these men claim to have the exact same goals, the exact same bonds with their animals, and the exact same reasons for allowing the public to handle them. Everything they do, and all the money they make, they insist is for the animals.

They do it all, they say in the name of saving big cats and spreading awareness about the plights of wild big cats.

This is their mantra.

Yet while these proclamations come out of their mouths, their hands are busily handing off yet one more big cat cub to a waiting patron, eager to coddle the kitten and ‘share the special bond’ that its owner has so carefully created via ritualistic training.

By the time that kitten becomes an adult, no longer suitable for handling, another kitten will have been ‘rescued’ or otherwise secured, and will conveniently be available to help share the ‘special bond’ just like generations of assembly line victims of the special snowflake syndrome before it.

And yet millions of people all over the world continue to believe in the fairytale of special snowflakes. They continue to share Serio’s videos, and tout the ‘special bond’ he has with all of his ‘kids’. They continue to believe that people like Serio, Antle, and Mitchell should breed animals so that they can repopulate the wild spaces that currently can’t support the feeble populations of wild cats that still exist.

Until they open their eyes a recognize the ritualistic abuse for what it is, the cycle will continue.

Author: Artemis Grey

Just Your Average Morning Cup Of Processed Partially Digested Fecal Matter

It’s been a wild couple of weeks, but I’m finally back to a point where I can get some articles written for ICARUS. As I debated what today’s article should focus on, I kicked back in the only chair not occupied by a cat, and sipped on my usual morning cup of processed partially digested fecal matter. I’m not really into keeping up with fads, but I am totally devoted to the bean, so only the best will do. In this case, the best–by current popular standards–means that the ingredients of my hot beverage have been fed to a small animal, partially digested by that animals, then excreted within the feces of that animal, and that feces has then been ground up and I bought it and drank it.

Have I grossed you out yet? Because I’m telling you the truth. Well, not about me drinking the stuff. I don’t get paid enough to afford the $700 per kilogram price tag. But I’m telling the truth about all the rest.

Still don’t know what I’m talking about?

Coffee.

Yes. Coffee. No, probably not the coffee you’re drinking while reading this. But a certain coffee, kopi luwak, kapé alamíd, kafé-laku, it has many names, is made from the partially digested coffee beans excreted in the fecal matter of the Asian palm civet. No, I am not making this shit up. Pun entirely intended.

For anyone who has never heard of this type of coffee, don’t feel bad. Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, has been around since the early 18th century, yet it’s also something that only devoted coffee connoisseurs would be familiar with. After all, not even the most ornate marketing can make up for the fact that you’re drinking something made from poop. That said, you might be shocked to know just how many people will happily pay $700 for a kilogram (just over two pounds) of these mysterious beans and kopi luwak is second in price only to Black Ivory coffee, which brings in $1100 per kilogram.

I know, now you’re thinking ‘Okay, gross, but whatever. What does this have to do with conservation? If people want to drink poop-coffee, let them do it and weed out the crazies via natural selection.’

But it’s not that simple.

Let me give you a brief overview of kopi luwak history.

In the early 18th century, the Dutch were ruling the coffee roost from their position in the Dutch East Indies islands of Java and Sumatra. But since coffee was special, the Dutch forbid the native peoples–including plantation workers and coffee bean farmers–from using coffee fruit themselves. Wanting to know just what their Dutch masters cared about so much, the native peoples got the idea to follow Asian palm civets–a smallish obscenely adorable mammal indigenous to the area–and collect the civet’s feces, knowing that the civets ate the coffee fruit from the plantations, and that the seeds (the coffee ‘beans’) would not be digested, but instead would pass through the animals and could be found in their droppings.

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Asian Palm Civet

So by collecting civet poop, gathering the coffee beans from within it, and then cleaning the beans and grinding them up, the naive peoples were finally able to taste the coffee beverage so coveted by their masters. You’d think this would be the end of the story, but according to accounts, the aroma of this ‘civet coffee’ became renown, eventually drawing the attention of the Dutch plantation owners, and it quickly became their favorite type of coffee. Of course, due to the fact that one had to follow palm civets around and collect poop for days in order to gather enough beans to make even one serving of coffee, the ‘civet coffee’ was just as expensive during the colonial period as it is today.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and kopi luwak is still coveted.

The natural process of making civet coffee is slow, and, well, natural. Civets, which are frugivorous, meaning that they primarily eat berries and pulpy fruit, such as figs, palms and coffee, eat only the tastiest coffee fruits. They then defecate in order to mark their territory (they are solitary animals aside from the mating period) and subsequently leave the undigested coffee beans behind. One must go around collecting the feces, sort through it to find the beans, and then gather them. Because the civets select only the best coffee fruit to eat, this selection process is valued by coffee connoisseurs as part of what makes the coffee so special. Problem is, you’re limited on how much you can profit because you’re reliant on following wild civets around waiting for them to eat coffee beans and poop them out.

Enter the idea of civet farming.

Why go around following wild civets, who may, or may not have eaten coffee fruit, when you can keep them locked in small cages and feed them nothing but coffee fruit?

Civet farms have now become the norm, with tens of thousands of civets being kept in cages and fed almost exclusively coffee fruit. Wild civets are captured using box traps, snares and hunting dogs. These methods often result in injury to the animals, and cause the animals immense stress. Kept in small cages similar to what you’d find in a puppy mill, or chicken battery, and forced to eat an improper diet, many animals die after only a few years in captivity. Others live on, bearing self-inflicted wounds, or old injuries leftover from their original capture. Offspring are forcibly removed from mothers, only to be put into their own cages and started on a coffee fruit diet.

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Via The Guardian

The most shocking and disturbing factor of civet coffee, is that we know it’s going on, and yet we keep buying the damn coffee. Investigations of animal cruelty have been reported and written about since 2012. Time Magazine ran an article in both 2012 and one in 2013 highlighting the documented abuse of civet farms. The New York Times touched on the subject back in 2010, though its article did not seem to consider the backyard pens of cages to be abuse.

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Via Gotham Coffee

Disease, self-harm, and capture related injuries are commonplace.

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Yet the exposure provided by articles about civet coffee only seemed to fuel interest in the coffee, rather than in the abuse and cruelty utilized to make the coffee. Harrods of London originally offered civet coffee for its most discerning clientele at a whopping £70 (about $105 USD) per cup, as well has offering packaged ground beans. They withdrew the product after being petitioned to do so, then began selling it again, claiming to work closely with their suppliers to assure that only ‘authentic wild’ civets were used in production. Now, they’ve removed civet coffee from their roster entirely. Following Harrod’s lead, several other leading stores have also stopped selling the coffee. Which is a start, at least.

A movement to use only wild civets has been gaining steam, but with little oversight in the industry and virtually no legal guidelines, fraudulent claims of ‘wild’ civet production are rampant. Just as the term ‘cage free’ chickens is often accepted as meaning that the chickens roam freely on vast acreage, the term ‘authentic wild’ civet is accepted as meaning that the animals are free and wild, and existing in their natural habitat. In reality, ‘cage free’ chickens might well indicate chickens which are kept tens of thousands of animals crammed into a small shed–unconfined to cages, yet still unable to move more than a few inches in any direction–and ‘authentic wild’ civets might be authentically wild-born civets who have been captured, and are now kept caged. It’s all an insidious word game, one in which the public ignorantly allows themselves to become pawns.

Hand-in-hand with the word games of marketing and advertising, comes the peculiar sort of peer pressure of the jet-set. There is a bizarre prestige associated with, and a desire to mindlessly agree with the status quo. A pressure to be grateful for being offered something so rare and expensive that the majority of the population will never be able to afford it.

How it’s portrayed:

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If someone stopped you on the street and offered you the chance to drink a beverage derived of animal feces, you would likely provide your choice explicative, and keep walking. But change the setting to a high end venue like Harrods, and have the person offering you the poop beverage be a millionaire jet setter, and suddenly if you refuse, you feel like an uncouth and ignorant pauper, part of a crowd wherein only the uncivilized would fail to appreciate the rarity and fabulousness of such a beverage. So you drink it, because really, who says no to a millionaire? And so the cycle continues.

How it’s actually made:

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It’s a cycle not unlike that which surrounds the pseudo-sanctuaries such as Black Jaguar White Tiger, and their high end celebrity benefactors. If you actually are an established actress/actor or celebrity, you risk status-suicide if you criticize your contemporaries for their exploits in cub petting at *the* premier ‘it’ place to be seen holding baby lions and tigers. And if you’re just a common person, you risk being called jealous, ignorant, and worse if you have the balls to call out celebrities for their actions in supporting the abuse of such animals.

Civet coffee remains one of the most expensive and sought after coffees in the entire world. A coffee made from poop. And yet the adoration of it keeps growing. In a perverse modern interpretation of the Emperors New Clothes, the hype surrounding the flavor of kopi luwak has attained such mass that one who has never tasted it is subsequently obligated to support the claims of its taste, or be ostracized for being too uncultured to recognize the delicate flavors. Never mind that the difference in taste between civet coffee and other types of coffee is something still being debated. Just as if you’re a celebrity invited to romp with the animals of Black Jaguar White Tiger, you’re faced with accepting the invitation, and joining the ranks of the touted, or speaking out against them and being publicly placed into the ‘haters’ category.

Poop coffee and coddling wild animals. Neither one seems like a good idea, and yet thousands of people participate in both, and millions more ignorantly support the ideas. Why? Because it’s what everyone else is doing, and no one wants to be the squeaky wheel. No one wants to be the uncultured one, no one wants to be in the hater category. Thus, the animals continue to suffer.

So, as I finish off my second cup of non-civet-poop-coffee, I challenge you to be the squeaky wheel, the hater, the one with the balls to stand up for the animals. Tens of thousands of civets are suffering at this very moment just so someone somewhere can pay a $100 to sip coffee made from their poop. Tens of thousands of more wild civets are at risk for exploitation. Wild populations of civets have not yet been damaged enough to fall within the ranks of conservation status. But that will change in the very near future if the drive for civet coffee remains as it is. Between the continually expanding civet farms used for coffee production, and the encroachment of civilization, the civets face imminent loss of habitat. It’s going to take a lot of squeaky wheels to change the status quo, to stand up and say that no supposed flavor is worth the torture and abuse of animals.

In a world full of celebrity-enamored doormats, be a squeaky wheel.

Author: Artemis Grey

With a Sleight Of Social Media Hand: How Black Jaguar White Tiger Continues to Choose Slander Over Answers

In my last post, I focused on how the pseudo conservation, and misleading representation of Black Jaguar White Tiger was finally being mentioned in news outlets. I talked about how refreshing it was to see the news articles highlighting the questionable activities and the very real dangers of handling big cats, and worse, allowing paying customers–excuse me sponsors–to handle and play with big cats, instead of simply writing a fluff piece with the main theme of Aaaawww! and adding a video or photos of someone cuddling with a days-old cub.

It seems I wasn’t the only person who noticed that news sites were beginning to slowly pick up stories about how Black Jaguar White Tiger exploits the animals it claims to be rescuing. Over the last few days, Eduard Serio has taken to Instagram in attempt to both defend himself and BJWT and, not surprisingly, to direct public attention elsewhere through a campaign of misinformation and outright lies.

This is how BJWT has operated historically. If you question them, you get blocked. If you speak out against them, their followers browbeat you and clog your posts with hateful comments, threats and admonishment for not “seeing the good he does”. Eduardo himself rarely gets his hands dirty. With 4 million+ adoring fans, he doesn’t have to. Neither does he ever step in and tell his fans to back off, or that there might be justification for others not agreeing with how he functions. Interestingly enough, in Eduardo’s recent defensive Instagram posts–responses, he says he’s finally offering after 9 months of being assaulted with accusations–he does not mention The Daily Beast, or Gizmodo,  (though his followers have successfully made asses of themselves on her Instagram) or even ICARUS. No, according to Eduardo, there is only one sanctuary, and one person who has been “hating” on him for “the last 9 months”.

That sanctuary, according to Eduardo, is Big Cat Rescue, which is internationally renown, accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries (unlike BJWT) a member of the World Society for Protection of Animals, certified by the Independent Charities of America as a “Best in America Charity” and has been Rated 4 Stars by Charity Navigator (their highest rating) and has one of the highest scores of any animal based charity. And the single person Eduardo claims has been persecuting him for precisely 9 months, is Carole Baskin, BCR’s founder. Why Eduardo has chosen to fixate on Carole and BCR isn’t clear, nor is the very precise description of the “last 9 months” ever explained in his rantings.

These are classic behaviors of someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder,  with a healthy helping of megalomania. Instead of answering questions, Eduardo is pointing fingers, and instead of combating the multiple organizations that have questioned him, Eduardo is publicly fixating on just one–also very public figure–and trying to divert all attention to her. In short, he’s picked the biggest piranha in the pool and is attempting to publicly spear her, in hopes that the rest of the piranhas will just go away. Again, Eduardo is mirroring Jim Jones, who chose to vilify the American government in order to ‘save’ his congregation. In Eduardo’s case, he’s trying to vilify one of the premier big cat sanctuaries in order to make his own BJWT look more legitimate.

The tragic–but not surprising–part is that his 4 million+ Instagram followers are blindly agreeing with him, and eagerly gobbling up the misinformation and lies, as well as Eduardo’s poorly executed excuses and explanations for some of the accusations that recent articles have raised in regard to BJWT.

The first lie that caught my attention was this post:

IMG_0399      IMG_0400 In his description, Eduardo asserts that someone who truly loves their animals ‘wouldn’t want to use their skulls and skin as decoration for some drunk people partying.’ That’s totally true, Eduardo, which is why those skulls aren’t for display but for learning. Also, the curio cabinets (an inside source tells me that there are only two of these curio cases) are not ‘decoration’ for partying drunk people, but rather they stand in a back room of the sanctuary which is used for private events–often visiting groups of school children– and each skull is identified by species, with descriptions of the species, habitat and cause of death for the animal that the skull represents. These items are educational tools, used to teach children about big cats in the wild. In contrast, BJWT offers no education to any school children as it is privately owned by Eduardo and you have to pledge to donate $1,000 a month, in order to even be allowed onto the property.

Since I knew that the above photograph was bogus, and accompanied by slanderous lies, I decided to dig a little deeper. Next up was this gem:

IMG_0412 I’m not a tech expert, but this is a sloppy splicing job if I ever saw one. Some avid BJWT buddy ought to be unfriended for this. The top part IS an article–not written by Carole, but rather One Green Planet–which is linked to via BCR’s Abuse Issue page–not 911Animal Abuse, as Eduardo claims. The bottom part, which makes a great deal out of offering people money in exchange for comment or articles is something that has been electronically spliced using unrelated subjects, and as I said, sloppily at that. If you look closely:

IMG_0456   you can clearly see that a splicing tool marker is visible on the page, something that would not exist on a genuine webpage. Nor would the solid black line that runs across the screen be present in a genuine webpage. The crosshairs are a photo-merging tool, and that, in itself is very telling of the sorts of lows Eduardo is willing to go to just in an attempt to deflect attention from himself and the workings of BJWT. If Eduardo is willing to fabricate a webpage (or post a fabricated page without proof of it being real, but claiming that it’s real) in order to then put the fabrication on BJWT’s Instagram and lie about BCR, what else is he willing to lie about? My guess is, pretty much anything.

Along with the slandering posts of outright lies he’s put up, he’s also put up posts with misconstrued publicly available information. That’s the thing about America. We have the Freedom of Information Act, which means that besides doctor’s records, and a few other select things, you can get pretty much any information about a person you want from what hospital they were born in, to if they got drunk in public as a teenager. Eduardo then takes this public information–which is not secret or anything hidden from anyone–and adds a few baseless and unsupportable speculations, and sets it loose amongst his fans to spread and comment on.

In the midst of all the trash talking Eduardo has done, he’s also suddenly begun to offer little BJWT ‘Facts’ which state some of the very questions the recent criticizing articles have asked of the pseudo sanctuary. With each “Fact” and question, Eduardo posts the “answers” to the questions. Problem is, none of his ‘answers’ ever actually answer the question.

For example:

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Okay. So you’re a nonprofit, which means nothing except that you’ve complied with Mexican law and are considered a privately owned civil association. And you’ve got 5 million friends and 200 animals which means–somehow–that you “can’t not be accredited.” Um, sorry, having a bunch of friends and animals doesn’t mean you’re qualified to pack bagged lunches for homeless kids. It just means you’ve got a bunch of animals and friends. He also cites–as if presenting some sort of certification–that he’s posted photos of an award he received from the Federation of Political Green Parties. So you’ve been handed an award by political parties which are, first and foremost, political parties, not conservation groups. Just because the word ‘green’ is involved, doesn’t make them conservationists. In fact, the Green Party of Mexico was shunned by the European Green Party back in 2010 for instating the death penalty, which has nothing to do with conservation at all.

Eduardo goes on to describe how much he’s seen and done and blah blah blah. Basically he throws out some official sounding stuff and then talks about himself. No, BJWT is not recognized by the GFAS. And the ‘G’ in GFAS stands for Global, so BJWT can apply to be recognized, and approved by them any time it wants to. The only reasons it’s not recognized by the GFAS is because it hasn’t applied, or hasn’t met their stringent regulations.

Another question Eduardo has ‘answered’ in his recent defensive posts is:

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Terrifyingly, Eduardo’s ‘answer’ to why they consistently have so many cubs at BJWT is to plainly admit that the breeding of big cats is still allowed in Mexico, that he has attempted to buy out breeders, and that he never says no to a rescue. He then cites how much that costs and that the breeders don’t pay him to take their cubs (which, he just stated that he’d attempted to buy out a breeder) so he’s also admitting that the money is going the other way, subsequently supporting the continued breeding of captive big cats. At the end, Eduardo states that BJWT does not have a license to breed animals, and would be shut down if they bred them. Problem is, according to the Law Library of Congress, Mexico doesn’t have licenses for breeding big cats, only for possessing them. A full version of the study and documentation relating to Mexico’s  General Law On Wildlife can be seen here. Be prepared to scroll, as the study covered several countries. The takeaway? Eduardo has spent money to buy baby cats, and then as per BJWT’s own FAQ page they never spay/neuter their animals:

ABSOLUTLEY NOT. None of our kids are spayed or neutered unless they come to us like that. We prefer to use less invasive methods and technology, the oldest method is to separate the female from the male when she is in heat, our most usual option is giving birth control injections every six months. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, we would Love that someday in the future our Angels could help repopulate the Jaguar, Lion, Tiger and Leopard population in México, Africa and Asia. It is very easy to spay or neuter a rescued Angel, but perhaps in 10 years or so things will change and we would have recovered their natural habitat. ALWAYS THINK BIG. ALWAYS…

At the same time, several of Eduardo’s Instagram darlings have complications that he blames on inbreeding. But they aren’t spayed or neutered because he’s ‘thinking big’ about repopulating the wild with his dysfunctional, inbred babies. If that doesn’t make much sense to you, we agree. However, according to Eduardo, his “hater” are just jealous.

Meanwhile, BJWT continues to load up Instagram on a daily basis with photographs of people playing with animals, some of them containing a number of species of big cat lounging, or worse, eating together, in what Eduardo likes to hashtag #TheBigPrideBJWT. Never mind that of the various species shown only lions exist in a family group, while the tigers and jaguars are animals who exist singularly unless meeting with the opposite sex in order to mate, or if in the company of their own young. Then we’ve got gobsmacking acts of stupidity like this, wherein Eduardo is communing, or something, with his ‘kids’ while they eat, and for whatever reason he felt he needed to put himself there and videotape it.

Eduardo very much enjoys asserting that BCR keeps it’s animals in cages, often posting photos which show only a corner of a habitat, or the feeding conduits in a misleading fashion. According to BJWT’s own FAQs page, however, they have only ‘8 acres of land for our babies to run freely and safely without harming one another or risking danger.’ compared to BCR’s 67 acres, and BJWT claims to have possession of some 200 animals while BCR has much fewer animals, many of whom are geriatric and in the last stages of their lives. BJWT welcomes “sponsors” who pledge $1,000 or more a month in donations to come and handle their young animals. BCR, in contrast, hosts limited tours through only a small portion of their sanctuary and because of the size of the cat habitats, they cannot promise that visitors will even see a big cat.

In one of Eduardo’s most recent Instagram posts he offered this picture:

IMG_0414 and proudly said ‘You can not say that us Mexicans don’t have thick skin.’ Except, Eduardo, when it comes to anyone questioning your methods or your pseudo sanctuary. Then evidence shows that ‘us Mexicans’ do, indeed have exceptionally thin skin, and that you’ll always prefer slandering others to answering questions. BJWT will always use a sleight of social media hand to attempt evasion, to justify their own actions, and to deflect attention from themselves onto their ‘haters’, even when those ‘haters’ are just asking legitimate questions, or pointing out obvious issues with the actions of BJWT.

BJWT might have 4 million+ followers on Instagram, but then, perhaps BJWT is more suited to the theatre of social media popularity than they are the theatre of genuine conservation. It’s one of the defining differences between BJWT and BCR. BCR aims to end all private ownership of big cats with their Big Cat Public Safety Act HR 3546, while BJWT actively thrives on being allowed to own big cats.

 

Author: Artemis Grey

 

Addendum: As BJWT is continuing their own “Fact” campaign, I’m continuing to follow it, and thus wanted to add the latest rebut to Eduardo’s latest ‘Fact’ and ‘answer’. As usual, it is an ‘answer’ which, under scrutiny, only raises more questions.

Two days ago, just one day after this article was originally published, Eduardo posted this on his Instagram account:

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Getting a 501(c)(3) can be tricky. But if you know the right people, it can also be a great deal less tricky, and more profitable.

Naturally, I was also keen to learn more about how the offices of a Foundation based in Mexico had an IRS-related address listed in CA. I should have not been surprised to find what resides at the address attributed to the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation.

The business located at the address to which the above letter was sent is not actually some sort of ‘American headquarters’ for BJWT. Rather, it is R.C. Baral & Company, Inc. which is an accounting company devoted solely to managing the books for entertainment companies. They specialize in the bookkeeping of such monstrosities as Universal Studios, Warner Bros, Showtime, ABC, NBC/Universal, Miramax, and others. All of them devoted to entertainment. They also cater to what they call ‘Creative Entertainment And Business Executives’ along with professional athletes, actors, directors and so on and so forth.

A google of the Contact Person listed in Eduardo’s photo gets us to Joe Laux, CFP (Certified Financial Planner) of Silverhawk Wealth Management. A simple Google search of Joseph Laux and his phone number under ‘Images’ revealed multiple letters exactly like the one Eduardo has posted on Instagram. Apparently, filing for 501 (c) is a specialty of Joe’s. There are 29 types of of 501 organizations (1-29) so not all of the ones I found with Joe’s contact information are 501(c)(3) but it’s clear that he does this quite a bit for companies that range from avionics to other (3) groups.

50(c)(3) is specified for organizations pertaining to –Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary, Testing for Public Safety, to Foster National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organizations

Lots of organizations have 501(c)(3) status. It’s not a crime.

However, when your foundation takes “donations” in exchange for the chance to play with your captive wild animals, gaining the status of 501(c)(3) status via the efforts of an entrainment accounting company, and a CFP who specializes in getting tax exemption for companies, and then happily announcing on your Instagram that now all of those “donations” people pay you in order to play with your animals are ALSO tax free for them, does not, in fact, validate you as a conservation group. If anything, it only casts a longer shadows over your empire of pseudo conservation.